What is “clicker training”? Clicker training is a form of operant conditioning that uses a unique sound (click) as a conditioned reinforcer to indicate to the dog that he has just performed a behavior that earned a reward:
Trainer says “Sit.” Dog sits. Trainer clicks and gives dog a treat.
For many pet owners, the clicker is just one more thing to have to worry about and have in their hands while training. And truthfully, it is not necessary in order to train basic pet behaviors. We do not teach clicker training in most of our group classes, though clients are welcome to bring and use their clickers.
We are experienced in clicker training, though, and teach it in private lessons when appropriate and/or requested. It is a great way to teach dogs how to think outside of the box. They learn that their behavior has an effect on their environment. Instead of waiting for you to show them what to do, the dog is more likely to problem solve and offer a new behavior on his own:
If I jump on my person when she’s eating, she totally ignores me. Maybe if I lie down while she’s eating, she’ll click & treat.
This form of training is perfect for dogs that need more confidence. A timid dog can learn that only good stuff will happen for trying new behaviors. The worst thing that will happen to her is that her behavior will not earn a click. With continued work she will become bolder to try new things and confident that her choices will be met with positivity.
Some dogs need more mental stimulation then your average pet dog. Clicker training is a brilliant way to work that dog before he finds his own (often naughty) entertainment. Plus, it’s easy. No need to travel to do it, no big or expensive equipment to buy. Take ten minutes in your kitchen to work on a new behavior and your dog may just need a nap afterward.
Clicker training has many uses in behavior modification as well, including leash aggression, impulse control and excessive barking. Contact us today if you think you and your dog would benefit from everything clicker training has to offer.
And finally, pop culture has given us an excellent example of operant conditioning. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to watch this clip from The Big Bang Theory: